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Abstract Photography

Abstract photography, also sometimes known as experimental photography, is the art of creating a visual effect with an image that has no immediate attachment to reality, by using processes like focusing, framing, or retouching and editing the photograph in post-processing. For example, an abstract picture can sometimes isolate a fragment of an ordinary image to remove it from its original context and give it a surrealist edge. It can also involve playing with blurring, shadows or lighting, textures or unexpected forms. The image is often created with traditional photographic material (analog or digital cameras, dark room, computer). However, artists can also manipulate and alter the film in order to achieve the desired effect.

The first images known as “abstract photographs" appeared shortly after the invention of photography in the 1830s. In 1842, John William Draper created a new type of images with a spectroscope. This machine dispersed light beams and produced a phenomenon that was previously invisible to the eye. The negatives he produced had nothing in common with the works of other photographers, and they opened the way for innovative photographic works. Draper perceived these images as a scientific discovery, not as artworks, but today his method is widely acclaimed by critics for its inherent originality.

In England, Anna Atkins was also a pioneer of abstract photography; she was the first one to place dry algae on cyanotype paper. This scientific experiment improved photographic techniques by creating unique blue and white images. Moreover, the discovery of X-ray and radioactivity in 1896 provoked a fascination for the invisible and many photographers were immediately drawn to these phenomena. French photographer Louis Darget attempted to capture mental processes by pressing unexposed plates to the foreheads of his and trying to get them to project images from their minds onto the plates. He carried out thousands of similar experiments.

It was only during the 20th century that abstract photography truly became recognised as an artistic practice. Surrealism and cubism started replacing impressionism, especially after the Salon d'Automne in 1903 in Paris. This event highlighted new talents like Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp… Ten years later, in New York, Wassily Kandinsky, Mondrian, Braque and Delaunay shocked audiences. The freedom coming from abstract art inspired some of the greatest photographers to break the rules.

Erwin Quedenfeldt exhibited the first abstract photographs in Cologne in 1914. From 1920 to 1930, Europe became the epicenters of conceptual photography with artists such as Jaroslav Rossler, Josef Sudeck, and Rössler exploring abstraction.

Post-processing became more central to photographic works in the 60s and the 70s, with artists like Josef Newman. Eventually, the growing popularity of computers in the 90s and the 2000s opened up infinite possibilities for creating original work. Some contemporary photographers like Peter Klasen, Dominic Harris, or Nicolas Dubreuille combine photography with other mediums.

Find them all on Artsper with our unique selection of abstract photographs.

Collector’s Guide: Collecting Fine Art Photographs

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price,500 facet,10503*Oeuvres d’artistes best sellers|icon-bestsellers*bestsellers facet,10503*Werke von Bestseller-Künstlern|icon-bestsellers*werke-von-kunstlern-bestseller facet,10503*Artworks by best-selling artists|icon-bestsellers*bestsellers facet,10503*Obras de los artistas más vendidos|icon-bestsellers*obras-de-los-artistas-mas-vendidos price,1001:5000 price,501:1000 facet,10500*Young Talents|icon-youngtalents*youngtalents facet,10500*Werke aufstrebender Künstler|icon-youngtalents*werke-von-jungen-kunstlern facet,10500*Obras de artistas emergentes|icon-youngtalents*obras-de-artistas-emergentes facet,10500*Oeuvres d'artistes émergents|icon-youngtalents*jeunes-talents category,6*Painting*painting category,6*Peinture*peinture category,6*Pintura*pintura category,6*Gemälde*gemalde facet,8259*unsere Empfehlungen|icon-recommendations*unsere-empfehlungen facet,8259*Our recommendations|icon-recommendations*recommendations facet,8259*Nuestras recomendaciones|icon-recommendations*nuestras-recomendaciones facet,8259*Nos recommandations|icon-recommendations*recommandations facet,1629*Abstract*abstract facet,1629*Abstraite*abstraite facet,1629*abstracto*abstracto facet,1629*abstrakt*abstrakt facet,8274*Moyen (\u003c 115 x 115 cm)|medium*moyen facet,8274*Moyen (\u003c 45 x 45 inch)|medium*moyen facet,10497*Werke berühmter Künstler|icon-masterpieces*werke-beruhmter-kunstler facet,10497*Oeuvres d'artistes célèbres|icon-masterpieces*artistes-celebres facet,10497*Artworks by famous artists|icon-masterpieces*masterpieces facet,10497*Obras de artistas famosos|icon-masterpieces*obras-de-artistas-famosos facet,8277*Grand (\u003c 200 x 200 cm)|large*grand facet,8277*Grand (\u003c 80 x 80 inch)|large*grand facet,1635*Street art*street-art facet,1635*Straßenkunst*street-art facet,1635*arte callejero*arte-callejero facet,1671*Paysage*nature facet,1671*Naturaleza*naturaleza facet,1671*Landscape*nature facet,1671*Natur*natur facet,8277*Large (\u003c 80 x 80 inch)|large*large facet,8277*Large (\u003c 200 x 200 cm)|large*large facet,1686*Pop Art*pop-art facet,1686*Arte pop*arte-pop facet,1686*Pop-Art*pop-art facet,1644*Portrait*portrait facet,1644*Porträt*portrat facet,1644*Retrato*retrato category,5*Skulptur*skulptur category,5*Sculpture*sculpture category,5*Escultura*escultura category,9*Photography*photography category,9*Photographie*photographie category,9*Fotografie*fotografie category,9*Fotografía*fotografia facet,1641*Nus*nus facet,1641*Nude*nude facet,1641*Akt*akte facet,1641*desnudos*desnudos price,1000:501 facet,1830*Landschaft|landscape*orientation-landschaft facet,1830*Paysage|landscape*orientation-paysage facet,1830*Landscape|landscape*orientation-landscape facet,1830*Paisaje|landscape*orientation-paisaje facet,8274*Medium (\u003c 115 x 115 cm)|medium*medium facet,8274*Medium (\u003c 45 x 45 inch)|medium*medium facet,8280*Très grand (\u003e 200 x 200 cm)|very-large*tres-grand facet,8280*Très grand (\u003e 80 x 80 inch)|very-large*tres-grand category,15*Print*print category,15*Druck*editionen category,15*Edition*edition category,15*Edición*edicion category,23*Fine Art Drawings*drawing category,23*Dessin*dessin category,23*Zeichnung*zeichnung category,23*Dibujo*dibujo facet,1827*Portrait|portrait*orientation-portrait facet,1827*Hochformat|portrait*orientation-portrat facet,1827*Retrato|portrait*orientation-retrato facet,8301*Oeuvres en promotion|icon-promotions*promotions facet,8301*Special offers|icon-promotions*promotions facet,8301*Special Offers|icon-promotions*vergunstigte-werke facet,8301*Trabajos en promoción|icon-promotions*trabajos-en-promocion facet,1674*Scène de vie*scene-de-vie facet,1674*Everyday life*everyday-life facet,1674*Etchleben*etchleben facet,1674*Escena de la vida*escena-de-la-vida facet,8271*Petit (\u003c 50 x 50 cm)|small*petit facet,1680*Animaux*animaux facet,1680*Animal*animal facet,1680*Tier*tier facet,1680*Animales*animales facet,1668*Noir et blanc*noir-et-blanc facet,1668*Black and white*black-and-white facet,1668*Schwarz und weiß*schwarz-und-weiss facet,1668*Blanco y negro*blanco-y-negro facet,1632*Architecture*architecture facet,1632*Die Architektur*die-architektur facet,1632*Arquitectura*arquitectura facet,8280*Very large (\u003e 200 x 200 cm)|very-large*very-large facet,8280*Very large (\u003e 80 x 80 inch)|very-large*very-large price,50001 price,5001:10000 facet,1659*Floral*floral facet,1659*Flora*flora facet,1659*Flore*flore facet,1659*Flores*flores facet,1650*Urban Landscape*urban-landscape facet,1650*Paysage urbain*paysage-urbain facet,1650*Städtische Landschaft*stadtische-landschaft facet,1650*Paisaje urbano*paisaje-urbano facet,1692*Géométrique*geometrique facet,1692*Geometric*geometric facet,1692*Geometrisch*geometrisch facet,1692*Geometría*geometria facet,11634*Pop Culture Street Artists*pop-culture-street-artists facet,11634*Pop culture Street-artistes*pop-culture-street-artistes facet,11634*Popkultur Straßenkünstler*popkultur-strassenkunstler facet,11634*Cultura pop Street-artistas*cultura-pop-street-artistas facet,12*schwarz|050002*schwarz facet,12*Black|050002*black facet,12*noir|050002*noir facet,12*negro|050002*negro facet,1656*Graphic*graphic facet,1656*Grafik*grafik facet,1656*Graphique*graphique facet,1656*Gráfico*grafico price,5000:1001 facet,1833*Square|square*orientation-square facet,1833*Quadrat|square*orientation-platz facet,1833*Carré|square*orientation-carre facet,1833*Cuadrado|square*orientation-cuadrado facet,30*bleu foncé|0707BD*bleu-fonce facet,30*Dark blue|0707BD*dark-blue facet,30*Dunkelblau|0707BD*dunkelblau facet,30*azul oscuro|0707BD*azul-oscuro
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